What is the role of the Park City School Board? I hadn’t really considered the question until a Park Rag commenter mentioned the subject. Even then, I guess I thought it was one of those questions that gets brought up now and then but is more hypothetical…
I received an email exchange between a citizen and a Park City School Board member about removing Reading Aides from classrooms and a petition by citizens to get those aides back in the classroom. The citizen’s email can be summarized by a closing statement, “I can tell you that everyone with whom I have spoken has already read, and heard, ‘The Narrative,’ and all are still wanting for details that justify the elimination of crucial instructors in our elementary schools.”
The school board member responded with an email that began, “Thank you for all the time you have taken on this issue. Although I understand that there are a lot of people that have signed the petition we do not make education decisions based on community opinion.”
“We do not make education decisions based on community opinion”? What? The School Board is elected by the community. The School Board serves the community interest. This is like saying, “Community you are too dumb, so we make decisions for you.”
As the back-story to this whole issue, the school district is removing Reading Aides from elementary classrooms, (mostly) because “english as a second language” kid test scores aren’t high enough and what the district has done to date has failed (according to the district). So, they are getting rid of Reading Aides, hiring one “Interventionalist” per school, and offering All Day Kindergarten because the district “has to do something.”
As a further back-story, the problem with the district’s line of thinking is that many studies show that All Day Kindergarten’s benefit (over part day Kindergarten, which we have now) typically disappears by first or second grade. The other issue is that Kindergarten isn’t mandatory, so the very students the district thinks they are targeting may not even show up.
Alright, back to the quote… “We do not make education decisions based on community opinion.” I could see if the district had a rock solid plan, that was indisputable based on facts, yet the public was making demands that were unreasonable and idiotic, that the district may say “public, you just aren’t educated enough on this topic.”
However, that’s not the case here. The Park City School District appears to be taking a flyer on trying to “fix” low test scores in low performing groups and the public is calling them out on it. By the way, 400+ people have signed the petition to keep Reading Aides in our schools. If you assume that most people signing a school petition have kids in school, that likely represents between 10%-20% of our kids. You may dismiss 5% of the people when they say “what’s going on?”… but 10% to 20%?
So, what is the role of the Park City School Board? Should the board not make education decisions based on community opinion? The issue I have with this is that almost every decision the board makes is an educational decision. Should the board not factor in community opinion? If at some point community opinion becomes overwhelming, should they not change course?
The real answer is that the board doesn’t have to do anything. They’ve been elected and can do what they want and think is best. I don’t think the board is acting maliciously. However, they may have been backed into a corner on this one.
If the board really does feel that they don’t need to listen to the community, and that they are acting in our students’ best interest, then I guess the public’s only recourse is either voting those individuals out of office or waiting for results to see if the decisions they made worked.
What’s more concerning is that our community’s opinion doesn’t appear to count. I guess that means that we as a public should no longer show up at board meetings and express our feelings. I guess it means that parents shouldn’t share their opinions with teachers. I guess it means that the school district is above us all.
Does that feel right? I don’t think so.